Professor Unrat  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Professor Unrat (1905, trans. by Ernest Boyd as Small Town Tyrant), translates as “Professor Garbage”, is one of the most important works of Heinrich Mann and has achieved notoriety through film adaptations, most notably Der blaue Engel with Marlene Dietrich. The book caricatures the middle and upper class educational system of Wilhelmine Germany and the double standards of the title character. In the United States, an abridgment of the English translation was published in 1932 under the title The Blue Angel.

Plot summary

The protagonist is Raat, a 57-year-old reclusive, widowed school teacher who is estranged from his son because of the son's academic laxity and scandalous trysts with women. Even though everyone around is either a former student of his or a descendant thereof, Raat is not held in high regard by his students. He takes the nickname "Unrat" (literally meaning garbage) to be a personal affront, and treats every school-day as a battle against his foes, the students, and uses impossible assignments as his means of achieving victory.

One of Professor Unrat's most formidable adversaries is the 17-year-old Lohmann, whose quick-thinking allows him to escape punishment and enrage his teacher. Raat discovers a poem in the student's notebook addressed to "Fräulein Rosa Fröhlich", whom he proceeds to track down.

At the "Blue Angel", he finds a placard promoting the "barefoot dancer" Rosa Fröhlich. Trying to avoid his students, Raat finds himself in the dressing room of the dancer, where he commands her to stop corrupting his students and leave town immediately. In response, however, she offers the professor wine and attempts to charm him.

The next morning sees a cease-fire between the students and the professor; he is afraid of being made a fool of in the classroom and they are afraid of being written up by the principal. That night, he returns to Rosa and calmly explains how unacceptable it is for her to accept wine, champagne, and flowers from students. Rosa explains that she sends such things from students back and undresses, beginning a relationship with Raat that sees him catering to her every wish: expensive restaurants, new clothing, a furnished flat, even sorting her laundry.

Eventually he is fired from his position, marries Rosa, and discovers she has a daughter. After two years of this marriage, Raat is financially ruined. A friend of Rosa's suggests that Raat give "lectures", which serve as a cover for Rosa to discreetly entertain male clientele in the professor's formerly respectable home.

At the end of the book, Lohmann re-enters Raat's life. Lohmann offers to pay all of Rosa's debts, but the jealous Raat tries to strangle Lohmann and makes off with Lohmann's wallet. Lohmann reports this to the police and both Raat and Rosa are arrested.

Film adaptations

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Professor Unrat" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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